India's Supreme Court dismisses petitions seeking probe into Rafale aircraft deal
"We can't sit in judgement over the wisdom of purchase of aircraft," the Supreme Court said. "We don't find any substantial element to show that there is any substantial favouritism," the officials said.
The judgement has come as a huge relief to the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leading government, which has been under constant attack from the opposition.
The judgement was delivered by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice K M Joseph.
The apex court said it was not its job to examine specific financial details such as the cost of an individual aircraft. Likewise on the issue of offsets being awarded to a private company, the court said it was the job of the federal government and the vendor to decide.
The petitions were filed by lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma, Aam Aadmi Party legislator Sanjay Singh and three other individuals.
The petitions together raised questions over the procurement process, alleged last-minute inflation in the price of the fighters and claimed there was impropriety in awarding offsets.
"There is no reason for interference in the choice of offset partner and perception of individuals can't be the basis for roving inquiry in sensitive issue of defence procurement," the court said.
Meanwhile, the advocate-activist Prashant Bhushan said Supreme Court's verdict was in his opinion "totally wrong."
"This is a limited clean chit. The court hasn't dealt with many of the issues that we raised," Bhushan said, adding that they would consider whether a review petition should be filed.
India in 2016 signed a deal with France for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets in a bid to bolster the country's military image.
Opposition parties have alleged the BJP has indulged in a gross corruption while finalizing the deal and demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe into the matter. ■